Friday, December 11, 2015

The Structure of Exodus

The book of Exodus gets its name from the exodus that occurred, but the Hebrew name is based on the first word of this book, Sh’mot, which means names.  Look at your Bible and see how the book starts with the names of the sons of Israel. This book was written by Moses and records the redemption out of Egyptian bondage.

Other major themes are the giving of the Law and the provisions of sacrifice and priesthood. You could divide the book into three sections: 
1st, Israel in Egypt and under bondage for 400 years; 
2nd, moving from the Red Sea to Sinai and God making the covenant with Israel through the Ten Commandments; 
3rd, Israel at Sinai and the construction and consecration of the Tabernacle, the house of the Lord.

Exodus teaches that redemption is essential to a relationship with the most Holy God. Even a redeemed people cannot have fellowship with Him unless they are constantly cleansed and purified from corruption, defilement, and transgressions (sin).

Let’s look specifically at The Plagues. (See chapters 7 through 11.) There are nine plagues before the horrible 10th plague that culminated in the Passover. The plagues were 1) Blood in the Nile, 2) Frogs, 3) Gnats, 4) Flies, 5) Death of Livestock, 6) Boils, 7) Hail, 8) Locusts and 9) Darkness. Let’s take them in groups of three since they seem to cluster nicely that way. The first three were distressing and uncomfortable, but relatively minor compared to what was next. The second set of three were a bit more painful for the Egyptians and very destructive. The last three were dreadful. The plagues are an answer to Pharaoh’s question. Look at Exodus 5: 1-2:
 1 Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’”
 2 Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.”

“Who is the LORD?” he asks. Well, the Lord God Almighty is going to make the answer pretty clear.
The plagues answer the question. There are definite relationships between the plagues and the Egyptian gods, Pharaoh’s gods. Remember, the number one commandment is “no other gods”. The first plague on the river Nile turns it to blood. The Egyptians had three gods of the Nile: Hapi, the bull god of the Nile, Isis, the goddess of the Nile, and Khnua, the ram god, guardian of the Nile. By messing with their river God is proving that He is greater than they. Some of the Israelites had been worshipping these gods, so this was a big indictment and judgment on these false gods that must have shaken things up for both nations.

The second plague was a horrible infestation of frogs (“croakers” in the original). Frogs, according to Egyptian belief, were regarded as having divine power and they were not to be killed. Now when you read that they infiltrated everywhere you should also imagine the Egyptians’ reluctance to kill them. The Egyptian goddess, Heqet, had the body of a woman and the head of a frog and was a fertility symbol. God seems to be showing that He, and only He, gives children.

Both the 1st and 2nd plagues were duplicated by Pharaoh’s magicians, but the 3rd plague was different. Insects, probably gnats or maybe lice, came upon man and beast, but Pharaoh’s magicians couldn’t copy this feat and gave God the glory, saying “This is the finger of God.” At least one scholar submits that the gnat plague was a challenge to Set, the god of the desert, since the plague began with Aaron smiting the dust of the earth (the desert) with his staff. Unlike the first two plagues, this plague had no warning for Pharaoh. Of course, his heart was still hardened and he would not listen.

The next three plagues get a little more severe. We have three destructive plagues. The land was ruined by flies. Then the livestock all died. Then men and animals alike were struck with festering boils. (Yuck.) The Egyptian gods that the Lord was opposing in this way were Uatchit, represented by a fly, Apis and Hathor, the bull god and the goddess with the head of a cow, and Sekhmet, goddess over disease, and Sunu, god of pestilence.

Plagues seven, eight and nine were dreadful and alarming. God showed his superiority over Nut, the sky goddess, Osiris, god of crops and fertility, and Set, god of storms, by sending a plague of hail. Hail fell and lightning flashed and it was the worst storm ever. And if that wasn’t enough for them it was followed with the plague of locusts which totally invaded the country, covering the ground until it was black. The ninth plague was a plague of darkness which challenged the Egyptian sun god, Re, as well as the sky goddess, Nut.

The final plague was the most horrible, but its result was that Moses and his people could finally leave Egypt. The plague on the firstborn meant that the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt – from the firstborn of Pharaoh to the firstborn of the prisoner – and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Can you imagine the crying, the grief, the horror? The Israelites, however, were saved from this plague by a Passover lamb. By putting some of the blood of the lamb on their doorframes the Lord would “pass over” their houses and not permit the destroyer to enter and strike them down. This whole sacrificial idea is a foreshadowing of Christ, the Lamb of God, as our ultimate stand-in. The Lord will “pass over” us on Judgment Day because Jesus has already paid our debt – His blood saves us.

We really need to look at the Passover celebration as revealed in the instructions given to Moses and Aaron in chapter 12 because the symbolism is wonderfully woven into the Jewish and the Christian experience.

Each household needed a lamb, a perfect male, and they had to take it on the tenth day of the month and not sacrifice it until the fourteenth day. Compare: Jesus entered Jerusalem on the 10th day and was crucified on the 14th day.

Passover restrictions required that they had to eat the lamb and not break any of the bones. (Compare: Jesus was crucified, but His legs were not broken as was the custom in crucifixions.)

In celebrating the Seder (Passover) dinner Jews still put three pieces of unleavened bread together (representing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) then take the middle piece, break it and wrap it in white cloth (symbolizing Christ’s death) and hide it (the burial). If you’ve seen Matzah bread you know it is striped and pierced (as was Jesus – whipped and later pierced with a sword). Later the bread is found (resurrection). The third cup of wine is drunk; it is the cup of redemption. (Jesus is all over the Old Testament in symbols, prophecies and archetype. You see Him even in the 10 Commandments, but we'll save that for next week.)

The last 16 chapters of Exodus describe the building and consecration of the Tabernacle – The House of the Lord. It is very specific and there are several great websites where you can find depictions, models, and architectural drawings based on these chapters. 

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